21st September 2001 at 01:00
SKOLDO. By Lucy Montgomery. Elementary pupil book pound;3.99. Book one pupil book pound;3.99. Teacher's handbook pound;25 each. Elementary CD pound;6. Two Book One CDs pound;8. CDs free with the teacher's handbooks. Ecole Alouette. Tel: 01843 843447.

These French publications are the first in a series of multilingual materials celebrating the European Year of Languages 2001.

The teacher's handbooks at both levels follow a similar pattern. Each lesson plan comprises a single A4 sheet, starting with resources, pre-session preparation (typically photocopying), the presentation phase by the teacher, and a section indicating what the children are to do, plus a song, workbook activity, and an extra worksheet for early finishers. Book one also includes "conversation practice" and "ABC" spelling sections, plus answers to worksheets. The French instructions and their English equivalent are set out at the front of the photocopiable teacher's handbooks, which contain activity sheets.

The durable pupil books contain a vocabulary list at the back, with the French words in bold separated into two columns, making it easy to look words up. Book one also includes a list of English into French words, almost exclusively nouns.

Book one thoroughly revisits the topic areas from the elementary book. The vocabulary is typical of early French programmes, but does contain some unusual items: scarabee (beetle) and blaireau (badger), for instance. The conversation practice does not always link to the rest of the lesson content, but is a discrete element in each lesson; for example, the question and answer "Quel age as-tu?" "J'ai huit ans" is introduced in a lesson around the theme la table.

Book one incorporates the French alphabet. Several lessons involve spellings to be dictated in French by the teacher, writing out the consonants or vowels within a word, or putting words in alphabetical order. Pupils are also introduced to plurals and gender. The elementary book contains songs, including one focusing on words ending in e-a-u. Most are repeated in book one, along with some new ones and all have piano scores and pictures to help children understand the words.

The attractive illustrations are unambiguous and suited to the many counting and colouring tasks, some involving adjectival agreement. Book one even has a song entitled "In French the colours come after the noun". The layout and instructions, including the symbols, are clear, and cross-referenced.

It is a pity there are no lesson objectives, nor an indication of appropriate age groups, although the introduction of reading and copy writing from the first lesson in the elementary book seems to target key stage 2.

The accompanying CDs present all the vocabulary, songs, conversations, and spellings, so will suit less confident teachers, as well as children. If schools, clubs or parents are looking for a user-friendly course telling them exactly what to do, these resources are value for money and will support them well.

Cynthia Martin

Cynthia Martin is a lecturer in MFL education at the University of Reading

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